ENGL100A Lecture Notes - Roderigo
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Othello - The play’s protagonist and hero. A Christian Moor and general of the armies of Venice,
Othello is an eloquent and physically powerful figure, respected by all those around him. In spite of his
elevated status, he is nevertheless easy prey to insecurities because of his age, his life as a soldier, and
his race. He possesses a “free and open nature,” which his ensign Iago uses to twist his love for his wife,
Desdemona, into a powerful and destructive jealousy (I.iii.381).
Desdemona - The daughter of the Venetian senator Brabanzio. Desdemona and Othello are secretly
married before the play begins. While in many ways stereotypically pure and meek, Desdemona is also
determined and self-possessed. She is equally capable of defending her marriage, jesting bawdily with
Iago, and responding with dignity to Othello’s incomprehensible jealousy.
Iago - Othello’s ensign (a job also known as an ancient or standard-bearer), and the villain of the play.
Iago is twenty-eight years old. While his ostensible reason for desiring Othello’s demise is that he has
been passed over for promotion to lieutenant, Iago’s motivations are never very clearly expressed and
seem to originate in an obsessive, almost aesthetic delight in manipulation and destruction.
Michael Cassio - Othello’s lieutenant. Cassio is a young and inexperienced soldier, whose high position
is much resented by Iago. Truly devoted to Othello, Cassio is extremely ashamed after being implicated
in a drunken brawl on Cyprus and losing his place as lieutenant. Iago uses Cassio’s youth, good looks,
and friendship with Desdemona to play on Othello’s insecurities about Desdemona’s fidelity.
Emilia - Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s attendant. A cynical, worldly woman, she is deeply attached to
her mistress and distrustful of her husband.
Roderigo - A jealous suitor of Desdemona. Young, rich, and foolish, Roderigo is convinced that if he
gives Iago all of his money, Iago will help him win Desdemona’s hand. Repeatedly frustrated as Othello
marries Desdemona and then takes her to Cyprus, Roderigo is ultimately desperate enough to agree to
help Iago kill Cassio after Iago points out that Cassio is another potential rival for Desdemona.
Bianca - A courtesan, or prostitute, in Cyprus. Bianca’s favorite customer is Cassio, who teases her with
promises of marriage.
Brabanzio - Desdemona’s father, a somewhat blustering and self-important Venetian senator. As a
friend of Othello, Brabanzio feels betrayed when the general marries his daughter in secret.
Duke of Venice - The official authority in Venice, the duke has great respect for Othello as a public and
military servant. His primary role within the play is to reconcile Othello and Brabanzio in Act I, scene iii,
and then to send Othello to Cyprus.
Montano - The governor of Cyprus before Othello. We see him first in Act II, as he recounts the status
of the war and awaits the Venetian ships.
Lodovico - One of Brabanzio’s kinsmen, Lodovico acts as a messenger from Venice to Cyprus. He
arrives in Cyprus in Act IV with letters announcing that Othello has been replaced by Cassio as governor.
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